It is very hard to estimate the number of irregular migrants in Turkey. Although figures cited range from 150 000 to 1 000 000 persons, more reliable estimates put the number of irregular migrants around a couple of hundred thousand. These figures do not necessarily reflect the stock of irregular migrants in the country, however, as many may be in transit. Trafficked persons, particularly women, are not included in these estimates. Between 1995 and 2007, the Turkish authorities apprehended more than 336 000 citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria for being in Turkey without a permit.
In its effort to counter irregular migration, Turkey has taken several legal measures and pursued international collaborations. In August 2002, the government introduced new articles to the Penal Code criminalizing human smuggling and trafficking. It established stricter controls at borders and ports. Meanwhile, a project was implemented in cooperation with an NGO to provide social assistance for victims of trafficking. Presently, there are two shelters for victims of trafficking located in Istanbul and Ankara. In May 2005, the police, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), initiated an awareness campaign and introduced a telephone hotline for victims of trafficking.
As for its other international efforts, in March 2003, the Turkish Grand National Assembly accepted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Additional Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air and began to take legal measures in accordance with the agreement. The Law on Work Permits for Aliens (see above) enacted in 2003 authorized the Ministry of Labor and Social Security to issue all types of work permits for foreigners, in order to ensure better management and control over the process and to avoid illegal employment of foreigners. The Law on the Amendment of Turkish Citizenship enacted in 2003 (see above) requires a probation period of three years for acquiring Turkish citizenship through marriage to limit the inflow of irregular migrants through arranged marriages.
Furthermore, legislation was adapted specifically to tackle the issue of human smuggling. For example, if a person is sentenced for migrant smuggling, his/her transportation permits cannot be renewed for three years and the vehicle used is seized by the Turkish authorities.
Besides taking domestic legal measures, Turkey has also signed readmission agreements with source countries in order to prevent and balance out illegal migration. Such agreements have been signed with Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Ukraine and Greece; negotiations with Pakistan are still continuing. The European Commission has been pressuring Turkey to negotiate and conclude a readmission treaty with the EU.
In terms of international cooperation, Turkey became a member of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2004. Together they are working to combat human trafficking specifically, in addition to addressing migration issues in general. Moreover, in January 2006, Turkey assumed the Presidency of the Budapest Process, which is an unofficial forum for inter-governmental cooperation and dialogue involving fifty governments and ten international organizations. The forum aims to prevent irregular migration and establish sustainable mechanisms in the field of migration management.